Archive for the ‘Heidi Krauel’ Category

Yin and Yang. A Buddhist Inspired Reflection in a Hindi Haven

January 16, 2009

I was told that I would either love or hate India. I didn’t expect to experience both emotions in nearly all that I do, throughout every day. It’s as though India kisses my cheek one minute and slaps me across the face the next. Surprisingly this manifests in an odd sense of peace. I think it comes from this new confidence that even if something awful is happening, you will be surprised and delighted with something beautiful if you just keep trucking. A good example is my recent trip to Rishikesh over the Christmas holiday. Many of you have seen the pictures but didn’t hear about the start.

When Mumbai-based Acumen Fellow Joanna and I joined the mob scene at New Delhi Railway Station the afternoon of the 25th we realized a little too late that the WL on our sleeper car railway tickets unfortunately did not refer to Wide, Lower Berth. It meant waitlisted. It also meant we were SOL on XMAS day. After an hour of unsuccessful finagling, we decide to hop a taxi to the bus terminal and try our luck. Here is where India is awesome. Thirty minutes and $8 got us water bottles, Tomato Tango potato chips, and front row seats on a dingy “semi-deluxe” bus up to Dehradun in the foothills of the Himalayas. Narayana Palace, Ganges River, here we come.

Nine hours and three male-only bathroom breaks later, the bus pulled over to the side of the road, seemingly at the end of the line.  No station signs, 1am, no English. The driver and a man on the side of the road kept shouting “Itibdi!” “Itibdi!” Itibdi did not show up on our map, in our guidebook or in our Hindi-English dictionary. We just sat there, pondering our options. Suddenly the man from the road leapt into the bus and shoved crinkled piece of paper into our faces that read “Miss Heidi.” Ahhhaaaa! We were saved! The driver we had booked from the hotel had actually waited three hours for our delayed bus and was there to whisk us away to our mountain retreat. We gathered our bags and walked over to our car, exhausted but relieved.

As we walked, the sound of scraping metal and plastic on asphalt whipped our heads around. The bus was gone but we saw an overturned motorcycle hurtling down the road behind us and its erstwhile rider slamming into the concrete barrier that formed the center of the deserted town’s sole driving circle. The wall was unlit and surely the cause of the incident. The men that appeared on the streets that night ran to the scene but the motorcycle rider lay still, crumpled against the wall. We froze. It was pretty clear we had just witnessed a fatal accident. For anyone that’s read Shantaram or seen a car accident in India, it’s known that things can get ugly quickly in these situations. As sad as it is, due to ambiguous liability laws and inconsistent policing strategies, strangers will often scatter in the case of emergencies. I hate to admit that I was all for a quick getaway but my traveling partner, Joanna – an Acumen Fellow placed with an ambulance company called 1298 – held back. She had just been trained in first aid and wanted to help. My approach to safety here is to keep as low a profile as possible. Being older and bossier, I won. Were this a woman or child being injured, I’d like to think I would have chosen another course. But, being that it was the middle of the night and that we were the only non-Indians and females in sight, I couldn’t see anything but bad results from inserting ourselves in the middle. At a minimum, we did confirm that there was a hospital in the town before we got in the car and locked our doors. We moved away, but sat stunned, feeling shaken and conflicted.  That silent reflection was quickly broken when our driver suddenly turned around and shouted “Merry Christmas!!”

“Umm. Right” we replied. “Merry Christmas.” Our vacation had begun.

We never found out what Itibdi meant.

For more on our trip please see the clip below.

The Number 17

December 7, 2008

Some of you may remember a 2007 Jim Carrey movie about a man named William Sparrow, who was tormented by the number 23. Once he started looking, he saw that his whole life looped around the number 23. For me, here in Delhi, it’s the number 17. It’s a 17 minute auto rickshaw ride each morning from my new home in Defense Colony to my carpool meeting spot at D.light CEO Sam Goldman’s house in East of Kailash. From there, we are joined intermittently by a D.light intern or two and any visiting D.light partners or staff to make the smoggy, horn-filled commute across the Yamuna River to our offices in Noida Sector 2.

Despite claiming an automatic time zone adjustment ability, my mobile phone clock is absolutely stuck at 17 minutes slow. Now used to this bizarre time lag, when I had to get up at 5am to make my flight down to Hyderabad this weekend to meet up with some Acumen Fellows, I automatically set my alarm for 4:43am.

As I was sitting at a D.light dealer’s electronics store in Aligarh District one night in late November, I counted exactly 17 bug bites on my feet acquired over a long but insightful day in the field. I smiled to myself as the shopkeeper explained how he prefers to sell his homemade lanterns that promise him recurring service and maintenance fees, rather than the sturdy D.light LED lights that do not. For more on the day I spent learning from D.light dealers and distributors alongside Sanjeev (D.light advisor), Rahul (D.light Salesman), and Meenaskhi (phenomenal D.light intern) please check out the clip below. I also wanted send a huge thank you to Meenakshi Chhabra, who devoted several weeks to the D.light business development strategy team during her transition between The Monitor Group and starting her MBA program next month at INSEAD Singapore. We’ll miss you!

Video Blogging

October 27, 2008

As part of the fellowship program, we will be video blogging every month from the field.  For our first assignment, we answered questions about training highlights, preparing for the field, and our hopes and fears for the year to come.

Premal Desai

Sophie Forbes

Ramakrishnan Hariharan

Joanna Harries; or see my blog

Mubarik Imam

Karthik Janakiraman

Heidi Krauel

Joel Montgomery

Nicole Orillac

Suraj Sudhakar

Stay tuned for our next episode…